The Windsor Police, Dorothy Nesbeth, and the Double Standard of the Good Ol’ Boys’ Club

 

NOTE:  This article speaks to events that are disputed.  I have tried to phrase things accordingly.  Some cases are on-going and the actual events have not been agreed upon or proven conclusively in each instance.  Be sure to read this post responsibly and verify events with other sources.  To facilitate a responsible reading, I have provided a number of hyperlinks in the text.

 

Image retrieved from here.

Image retrieved from here.

Dorothy Nesbeth, now a former senior Windsor Police Constable, was recently fired ‘dismissed’ from her duties after a three-year legal battle related to a border crossing in 2010.  When crossing the border, Nesbeth reportedly failed to declare some alcohol she had purchased and was ultimately found guilty of discreditable conduct.  I do not have an issue with Nesbeth’s termination in and of itself, but I am concerned about the inconsistency of the punishment.  If an organization has certain policies requiring a specific code of conduct and a member of that organization fails to comply, then the organization is perfectly within its rights to end the relationship with said employee.  However, Nesbeth’s ‘crime’ pales in comparison to a host of  ‘infractions’ committed by other members of the Windsor Police force. Most of these incidents represent an overt violation of public trust as well as a perversion of the judicial process. But even when civilian victims are involved, the perpetrators, who are mostly male police officers, get to keep their jobs.

 

Dorothy Nesbeth

Dorothy Nesbeth

Before comparing Nesbeth’s infraction to others, it is important to identify what happened in Nesbeth’s case.  Nesbeth was crossing the border with alcohol she legally purchased whilst shopping in the United States.  In order to avoid paying duty tax on these items, she omitted to report the purchase at the border.  When her vehicle was searched, the alcohol was found, and though she was not formally charged, the incident was reported to her employer: the Windsor Police Department.  A troubling aspect of this incident was the claim that Nesbeth threatened a customs officer, but she was ultimately cleared of that charge.  Though Nesbeth was found to be dishonest, it is worth noting that she was not in her professional capacity as a peace officer policy enforcer at the time.  She was not found to have assaulted or victimized a person, or to have undermined the legal process in so far as laying false charges against an innocent person. She did not cover up a crime committed in act of carrying out her duties as a police officer.  This was, according to the court’s finding, simply a case of not declaring alcohol at the border.  Still, because she was found to be dishonest, and because she was undermining the law, even if it be in her personal and not professional capacity, it is understandable that she might face discipline at work and even potentially be terminated.

 

 

This is not the only time a Windsor Police officer has had trouble when crossing the border.  Constable David Bshouty was recently arrested for smuggling what was believed to be three grams of cocaine across the border, though a subsequent report claimed that it was not cocaine.  Police have not revealed what the substance was, however, and a charge of bringing prescription pills, including what may have been Oxycodone, was not laid.  There was no explanation offered as to why a substance that initially tested positive for cocaine was later found to not be a prohibited substance.  In this case, Windsor Police deserve to be described as consistent.  Though Bshouty is suspended with pay, he is being processed in the same manner as Nesbeth. However, even if Bshouty is dismissed, this would mean that Nesbeth would have received the same punishment for bringing a legal substance over the border that Bshouty received for bringing an illegal substance over the border.  It also seems odd that the Windsor police let another department arrest Bshouty when they had an anonymous tip on him before he crossed the border and had been investigating him for two months.  Still, both Bshouty’s case, and Nesbeth’s, involve personal infractions that happened outside of their role as officers and do not have civilians victims.

 

The same week that Bshouty was arrested, the Windsor Police also saw another officer apprehended for a far more serious crime: Warren Braganza was detained for forcible confinement and assault.  The frustrating thing about this incident, which was an instance of domestic abuse, was that the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) did the arrest, meaning that the Windsor Police Department now needs another police department to oversee it. In addition, Braganza had already been charged with and would later in the month be convicted of discreditable conduct from driving while under the influence of a controlled substance and fleeing the scene of an accident.  Unlike Nesbeth, whose ‘discreditable conduct’ did not result in a victim, Braganza hit and damaged another vehicle and fled the scene.  He only came forward later because upon arriving at home, he realized that his rear bumper had fallen off in the collision, leaving his licence plate at the scene of the crime. Though he also ran a red light and failed a sobriety test, Braganza was only charged with fleeing the scene, which suggests that the application of the law is far more lenient with police than with civilians.  Had a civilian caused an accident whilst impaired and then fled the scene, a host of charges would follow along with a prison sentence, but Braganza escaped with a slap on the wrist.  Although he was found guilty of two counts of discreditable conduct, while Nesbeth only received one, Braganza managed to keep his job.  This represents a glaring inconsistency in the application of rules.  As for the domestic abuse charge, Braganza was acquitted despite photographic evidence of abuse.  He claimed that as an officer of the law, he would not commit such a crime knowing the consequences, but it is clear from his DUI incident that such factors do not come into play for Braganza and that there are few consequences for an officer who breaks the law.  Braganza, despite victimizing others and relying on his role as a police officer to defend himself, is still on the police force even after being found guilty of discreditable conduct.  In this context, it seems highly unfair for Nesbeth to lose her job when Braganza’s crimes are far more deserving of termination, especially considering that the Windsor police opted not to lay several charges against Braganza despite having an overwhelming amount of evidence to convict.

 

 

These are all instances of actions taken outside of the line of duty, but  even more troubling are actions taken in the line of duty.  Constable Anthony Fanara was accused of punching Samantha Lauzon whilst  arresting her then boyfriend on suspicion of possessing a knife.  After being reportedly accosted verbally by several teens, Lauzon’s then boyfriend, Sopha Theam, had a shouting match with the teens for harassing his girlfriend.  A phone call was then made to police stating that Theam had displayed a knife. It is worth noting that no knife was  found by either Fanara or his partner as they arrived at and assessed the scene.  Whilst Theam was being arrested, Lauzon tried explaining the situation to police, who refused to acknowledge her. In Fanara’s words, she “immersed herself” in a situation that  had nothing to do with her, and “kept badgering” Fanara and his partner.  He goes on to say that “She kept shouting from her location” and that “She was told repeatedly to be quiet” and also that “She wouldn’t listen to anything [Fanara] had to say”. The issue is that Lauzon, as a witness and victim of harassment, was involved in a situation that very much had to do with her. Fanara and his partner, who had failed to find evidence to corroborate the original phone call, were refusing to listen to witness testimony.  Fanara’s charge that Lauzon was not listening, when he was ignoring her himself, demonstrates a certain degree of entitlement.  Fanara also publicly claimed that Lauzon was drunk, but he failed to support this with evidence.  He then grabbed Lauzon and told her that he was arresting her for obstruction, even though she was trying to offer evidence and had done nothing outside of speaking.  When he grabbed her, which he had no right to do, he claims that she slapped him, at which point he admits to punching her.  Fanara’s own partner could not confirm that Lauzon had slapped Fanara.  In a clear display of excessive force, Fanara, who is still on the job and will not be facing any disciplinary action, punched a female witness in the face for trying to offer testimony.  Fanara arrested Lauzon to silence her, which is a violation of her freedom of speech made all the more frustrating by Fanara’s refusal to listen to her testimony.  The arrest and subsequent altercation are demonstrative of the kind of escalation that police need to avoid.  Fanara is still on the force, which implies that the Windsor Police department condones such excessive and violent practices.  In light of Nesbeth’s termination, Fanara’s escape without as much as being disciplined for punching a woman demonstrates some glaring inconsistencies in the Windsor Police Department’s handling of discreditable conduct within its ranks.

 

There is some ambiguity in the Fanara/Lauzon case, as individuals offer contradictory testimony and video evidence is lacing, but in the case of Kent Rice, there is no such ambiguity.  A video exists of Rice approaching a Black teen who is lying on the floor in the stairwell of an apartment.  The victim, Gladson Chinyangwa, is nearly motionless and not resisting in the least. Though an altercation may have occurred before the video started, it is clear that Chinyangwa is not resisting in the video.  Rice is seen kicking Chinyangwa several times, though there is no audio.  Since Chinyangwa is not attacking or resisting, there is no reason at to use force, but Rice delivers several kicks.  Frustratingly, even though Rice was convicted of using excessive force, a judge later overturned the conviction on appeal, claiming the previous judge made the mistake of “considering public opinion”, as if public perception of crimes committed by police should have no bearing on the how law enforcement operates.  Though public opinion alone should not indict a person, video evidence that clearly displays a crime being committed should.  Despite using this excessive force, Rice remains a member of the Windsor Police Department along with the likes of Fanara.  By allowing such violent offenders on the force, and dismissing an officer for failing to declare alcohol whilst crossing the border, it seems that the Windsor Police Department is picking and choosing which crimes require a dismissal, and that violent crimes carried out under the guise of law enforcement do not fall under that category.

 

 

These instances, however, are not the worst of it.  In April of 2010, Detective David Van Buskirk viciously assaulted a blind doctor, Tyceer Abouhassan, for allegedly following his daughter.  Not only could Abouhassan not have been following Van Buskirk’s daughter, given that he was blind, but Van Buskirk had no concrete evidence suggesting that he had been doing so and Abouhassan did not even match the description of the man in question.  After severely beating Abouhassan, Van Buskirk brought him in and charged Abouhassan with assault.  Van Buskirk was fortunately caught on video, and was convicted of assault, however, even after his conviction he had not lost his job as he resigned before the hearing that would determine his fate.  The frustrating part of this is that no less than two other officers were involved in this and falsely charged Abouhassan, offering to drop the charges if he did not move forward with charges of his own.  Staff Sergeant Paul Bridgeman and Detective Kent McMillan were both charged with discreditable conduct after conducting a conspiracy an ‘investigation’ and choosing to assist Van Buskirk in his cover up.  A clear example of the good ol’ boys club in action.  Windsor police actually defended Bridgeman and although he was clearly willing to violate the law and knowingly charge an innocent person with a crime after they were the victims of police brutality, Bridgeman was allowed to keep his job and given only a temporary demotion.  A police force that is willing to allow such a person to represent the law has no credibility.  As for Kent McMillan, he was allowed to retire without incident and gets to keep his pension.  This instance went beyond an example of police brutality and demonstrates a clear example of conspiracy to pervert the justice system, yet none of these men actually lost their job.  Nesbeth’s failure to declare alcohol whilst crossing the border seems to be a far less serious infraction.  Given that Bridgeman was allowed to keep his job even after arresting a man he knew to be innocent and engaging in conspiracy, its seems that the Windsor Police Department is being grossly inconsistent with the way in which is handles cases of discreditable conduct.

 

 

There are those who will argue that it is unfair to discredit an entire police force because of a ‘few bad apples’, and that is a reasonable statement.  It is also reasonable to suggest that an overwhelming number of instances of ‘discreditable conduct’ occur without ever being brought to the light of day, so whilst we know of a ‘few bad apples’, there are likely no less than twice as many that we don’t know about.  We might, for instance, not even have know about Rice and Van Buskirk had there not been video footage.  Are their actions isolated?  Or a pattern of behaviour?  Aside from the frequency with which this crime occur, there is also the problem with the system that defends, condones, protects, allows, facilitates, fosters and empowers such behaviour.  Of all of these instances, only one person has actually been dismissed: Nesbeth.  Is it a coincidence that she is the only female accused of discreditable conduct that lost her job? Is this an example of the ‘good ol’ boys’ club’?  Why does a woman who fails to declare alcohol when crossing the border lose her job when the man who was driving drunk, ran a red light, caused and accident and fled the scene of the crime get to keep his?  Why does the man who punched a woman get to stay on the force?  Why does a man who kick a teen what was laying nearly motionless on the floor get to hide behind a badge?  Why is a man who knowingly charged the victim of police brutality with assault given the power to do this again?  It is refreshing to know that not all officers are willing to lie.  Though Bridgeman joined in the conspiracy against Abouhassan, it is important to note that Fanara’s partner, who could have easily perjured himself without retribution, refused to testify that he saw Lauson slap Fanara, but in the Van Buskirk case, six other officers were involved in that miscarriage of justice, meaning that of the seven people involved, seven of them failed to do the right thing and only video evidence managed to ensure that Abouhassan was not falsely tried for a crime he did not commit.  I have been pulled over by police in Windsor more than once, and though I have met with some ignorance, I must also concede that at least three officers were respectful and professional when giving me a ticket for a traffic infraction, whilst two others pulled me over for what seemed like no reason at all, and on neither occasion was I given a reason.  In my youth, I was befriended by one retired officer who was easily one of the kindest people I had ever met, so I would not suggest that the entire force is corrupt.  It is not my experience that all Windsor Police are bad, and I appreciate the job that they do.  Still, there are problems.  Though Windsor is not plagued with the overt issues of race that Ferguson and New York have dealt with, it is important to note that both Rice’s and Van Buskirk’s victims were of colour.  It seems clear that there is a problem with the legitimacy of the department, and as long as the Windsor Police will knowingly allow men like Rice, Bridgeman and Fanara to represent law enforcement, they have no reasonable expectation for its citizens to extend the kind of respect that law enforcement seems to feel they are entitled to, and when it comes to offering testimony in court, the word of a Windsor police officer should be given no more validity than the word of a convicted drug dealer or thief.  This is a result of the culture that the Windsor Police as a organization has chosen to cultivate.

 

If you enjoyed this post and would like updates on my latest ramblings, be sure to follow me on Twitter @JasonJohnHorn.

 

 

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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